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Annandale Sparks:2002-2003 action  
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Annandale, Virginia
  2002-2003 action  

Sparks are Finalists in St. Pat's Tournament
Click on logo to link to tournament Web site
The Annandale Sparks were finalists in the Stafford St. Patrick's Day Tournament March 15-16. They won their group with two wins and a tie, then lost in a fierce final 2-1 to the SYC Spirit.

The Sparks began the preseason tuneup tournament Saturday March 15 with a 1-1 tie against the Arlington Extreme. The Sparks then beat the Bethesda Phoenix 2-1. Sunday morning the Sparks shutout the Pittsburgh Blue Flame Strikers 3-0 to earn their place in the finals.

In the finals, the Sparks controlled much of the run of play, but the Spirit picked up two goals on breakaways. The Sparks scored with about 4 minutes to play to pull within 1, but the Spirit withstood further pressure and won the match.   


Sparks finish Jefferson Cup 1-1-1; Sparks tied the champs
To link to the results, click on the logo.
An illness- and injury-depleted Annandale Sparks team beat the New Hampshire state champs Sunday March 22 to finish play in the Jefferson Cup with a 1-1-1 record. The Sparks beat the MISL Attack Fury 1-0 on a header goal.

In the championship game later Sunday, the other two teams in the Sparks group played for the championship. Sutton Fuller Hamlets -- who the Sparks tied 0-0 Saturday morning -- won the championship 1-0 over Cincinnati United Premier. Our group's teams knocked off the first- and second-place teams in the opposite group in the Sunday morning semi-final matches.   

The Sparks are left wondering what might have been had they been healthy and been able to field a full team.

On Saturday the Sparks played to a 0-0 tie against Massachusetts powerhouse Sutton Fuller Hamlets. The Sparks then faced a quick turnaround with just one game's rest before their next 80-minute match. The 13 Sparks took on the Cincinnati United Premier (CUP) Red team and lost 2-1. This was CUP's first match of the day.

The Sparks were down 2-0 in the CUP match, but summonsed up the energy and grit to mount a late-game flourish that pulled the match to 2-1. A reflex header by a CUP defender standing on the goal line next to the Cincinnati keeper was all that prevented the Sparks from scoring again. The defensive gem with less than 2 minutes to play prevented the Sparks from tying that match in what would have been an incredible comeback.

The Sparks-Sutton match was the first match of the day on a soggy, muggy field that slowly dried as the day went on. The 8 a.m. match was full of back and forth on the slippery field. Both teams mounted scoring chances as strikers and defenders dealt with tenative footing. Numerous superior diving and sliding keeper saves kept the match scoreless.   

The Sparks played in the U-16 Premier Flight of this elite East Coast preseason tournament. Joining the Sparks in the 6-team flight were 5 top out-of-state teams. The flight had two state champs, another finalist and two semi-finalists (including the Sparks).

In the Sparks' group, the Fuller Hamlets were Massachusetts state cup finalists at the U-15 level. Their state hasn't held this year's championships yet, but the Hamlets are seeded second in the state playoff. They were Massachusetts state champs in 1999. Last year they were the champions of the U-15 flight of the PWSI Icebreaker. This winter they were the champions of the Cocoa Beach Expo tournament.

CUP Premier was a Ohio South state cup semi-finals last year, losing a fierce match 1-0 to the eventual champ in what some say should have been the state championship matchup. They are out of West Chester, Ohio. Ohio hasn't had their U-16 state cup play yet. CUP was a semi-finalist in the Elite division (one higher than Premier) of the Jefferson Cup last year. In November, CUP played in the second-highest flight in the Raleigh Shootout.

In the opposite bracket were the MISL Attack Fury from Manchester, N.H., the Greensboro Twisters Green from North Carolina and the Lexington FC Premier from Kentucky. Group champion Greensboro lost 1-0 to Sutton in one semi-final. Lexington lost 2-1 to our group champion CUP in the other semi.   

The MISL Attack is defending New Hampshire state champ, with the U-16 championships still to be played. Lexington Premier is a two-time Kentucky state champ at the U-15 and U-14 level. The Kentucky U-16 championships are still to be played.

Greensboro has been a North Carolina power. It was in the Cup final 4 at the U-15 level, but was knocked out by an eventual semi-finalist at the U-16 level.

To link to the Tournament site, click on the headline to this article.


Sparks battle to Finals in GMU marathon
The Annandale Sparks fought their way to the championship game of the George Mason University Indoor tournament Super Bowl Sunday night before losing a cliffhanger in the final. The Sparks came from behind twice in the preliminary round to score two 3-1 victories and advance to the semi-finals as a wild card.

In the semi-final, the Sparks topped one of two undefeated teams still in the tournament, beating a BRYC Stampede team 2-0. The Vista Vipers, the other undefeated team in the tournament, beat the Sparks in the Finals 1-0. The Vipers were U-15 Virginia State Cup semi-finalists last fall, losing to the eventual state champs, just as the Sparks did in their Cup competition.

The championship game featured many shots and great diving and reflex saves by both goalies. Though play didn't start until 10 p.m. -- and it was the fifth game in five hours for the Sparks and the Vipers -- both teams played very hard and wanted the title. A score with about 5 minutes left decided the match. The tournament was the first time that the Sparks had gathered in competition since the rain-shortened Bethesda Thanksgiving Tournament in mid-November. The Sparks advanced to the semi-finals in that national outdoor tournament before weather forced cancellation of play.

Sparks finish Florida Showcase with 2-1-1 record
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The Annandale Sparks returned to Northern Virginia with soggy uniforms and a winning record after playing in the Florida Festival of Champions college showcase Feb. 8-9. The Sparks began play in Kissimmee against last year's U-15 Indiana state champs and Region II semi-finalist, the Carmel Heat. The teams played to a 0-0 tie. The Sparks' second friendly was against an all-star team of top players out of Colorado. That match ended up with the Rocky Mountain All-Stars winning 2-1. Saturday's matches were played in a cold mist.

After a Saturday evening banquet and college coaches roundtable, the Sparks returned to Austin-Tindall Regional Park Sunday where they played in a warmer rain and posted two victory. The first win was 1-0 over the Indiatlantic (Fla.) Force. In the friendlies finale, the Sparks got a nice sendoff for the return flight home with a 6-0 win over Florida's Cocoa Expos.

Sparks battle Milan in 2-0 tight Cup loss
Click on logo to link to the U-16 bracket
The Annandale Sparks march to the State Cup championship was stopped again by two-time national runner-up Chantilly Milan. Milan prevailed 2-0 in a semi-final match in November that all who saw it agreed was a good battle worthy of the final weekend of the State Cup competition. The two goals were the first scored on the Sparks in four State Cup games.

Chantilly went on to win the championship Sunday, beating BRYC Aurora 4-1 to earn their fifth State Cup title.   

In the Sparks match, Milan scored twice in about a two-minute span midway into the first half to gain the win. The Sparks created several scoring chances early that came oh so close to being converted, but were saved. The second half went scoreless, again with both teams creating opportunities, but strong defenses prevailed. The Sparks goalie gave a strong performance. The four-time Region 1 champs controlled more of the run of play and have great depth. The 2-0 Saturday semifinal was the closest match Milan had in this State Cup playoff, earlier beating BRYC Attack 3-0 and McLean Arsenal 4-0, then beating Aurora by three goals on Sunday         

Aurora beat the Richmond Mystx 3-1 in the other U-16 semi-final to reach the finals. Both teams picked up penalty kick goals in the first half.

The Sparks advanced to the semi-finals with three shutout victories. The Sparks defeated the AC Alliance 6-0, the Springfield Sting 3-0 and the Richmond Strikers Orange 3-0.

Rain stops Sparks tournament run prematurely
Click on logo to link to U-16 sked
The Annandale Sparks advanced to the semi-finals of Bethesda Thanksgiving Tournament before rains forced the cancellation of the tournament. The Sparks advanced on a 1-0 win over the Challenge United '86 and a 0-0 tie against a Canadian ODP level team out of Ottawa. Challenge United plays in the highest division of the PAGS league in Philadelphia.

Heavy rains forced the tournament to shorten matches to 15-minute halves at the Germantown Maryland Soccerplex. Had play been allowed to continue, the Sparks would have played the Lafayette Lightning in their Sunday semi-final match. The Lightning came away with 1-0 win over the McLean Arsenal and 2-0 win over the Casa Quest '86 in their grouping. The other semi-finalists were Stony Brook T-birds out of New York and the Damascus Spirit.

This abbreviated tournament concludes fall play for the Sparks. The Sparks ended the season on a roll. This was the second stretch of success in a season interrupted by the serial snipers at mid-season while the Sparks were putting together a five-game winning streak. The Sparks won their last two WAGS games after play resumed and picked up a win and a tie in this tournament. The only bump was the 2-0 loss in the State Cup semi-final against the two-time national runner-up.   

Friday, May 10
Sparks finish season with strong showing at JAGS
The Annandale Sparks faced some of the best teams in Region 1 during the 22nd Annual JAGS Tournament Father's Day weekend and posted two shutouts and a 1-1-1 record in the top flight of the New Jersey competition.

The Sparks tournament play was highlighted by a 3-0 victory against World Class Soccer Club out of Windsor, Conn. Three different Sparks found the back of the net in a dominating performance in which the Sparks goalie barely needed to touch the ball in the second half. World Class was a Connecticut State Cup semi-finalist this spring, losing to the eventual champion. World Class was a finalist in the JAGS tournament last June.

The Sparks played to a 0-0 draw against the Rochester Jr. Rhinos out of New York in a physical, exciting battle largely waged in the middle third of the field. The Rhinos were Finalists in the Elite Flight of the Jefferson Cup in March in Richmond and the winners of four tournaments in 2001. The Rhinos came in second in New York-West State Cup competition this spring.

The Sparks lone loss was to Tournament Finalist Mt. Laurel United Strikers. The game against the defending JAGS tournament champion was a rematch of the championship game of the Kirkwood Premier tournament in October 2000 in which Mt. Laurel also prevailed. In the JAGS Tournament the Sparks carried a 1-0 lead into the second half before the local New Jersey team won 3-1.

With this tournament completed, the Sparks end their Spring season with a 12-7-4 record against top U-15 and U-16 competition in WAGS League and tournament play. The Sparks held opponents scoreless eight times. Official Sparks game play will resume in late August as the Sparks work to improve on their semi-finalist finishes the last two years in the Virginia State Cup. Practice and fitness training will continue through the summer.

For JAGS results, click on the headline for this article.

smiley 8
Tuesday, April 16
Sparks are Finalists in top flight of The Virginian
The Annandale Sparks strung together four nice victories before losing Monday in sudden-death overtime of the U-15 Champions "Gold" Division championship game of "The Virginian" tournament. The Sparks overcame a two-goal, first-half deficit in the Final against LANCO United of Lancaster County, Pa. to take the game into extra time to break the 2-2 tie.

The Sparks began play Saturday with a 3-1 win against the Central Jersey Splash from Piscataway, N.J. That afternoon the Sparks were leading the Herndon Heat 2-0 when the Heat coach forfeited the game midway through the second half. Sunday morning the Sparks beat the Pittsburgh-area Century V Fire Premier 2-1 to go undefeated through their grouping and advance to the semi-finals.

The Sparks played the New York Syosset Screamers in the semi-finals. The Sparks coped with stormy weather and physical play to take the game to penalty kicks to break a 0-0 tie. Facing a national ODP team goalie, the Sparks banged home four PKs and while Sparks' goalie made two big saves as the Sparks won the shootout 4-3. The Screamers sent their own goalie to take the final shot of the shootout, only to be stuffed to secure the victory.

Monday's final featured one of the top teams from the Philadelphia Area Girls Soccer League (PAGS) against one of the top teams from WAGS. Though the Sparks controlled possession and sharply outshot LANCO through much of the game, LANCO put together two first-half goals to enter the half with a commanding lead.

The Sparks responded with two second-half goals and pressed LANCO for a third goal through the second half and much of the overtime. The Sparks congratulate LANCO for their win and look forward to a potential rematch in the upcoming JAGS tournament June 15-16 in New Jersey.

The Sparks should be proud of their own accomplishments in The Virginian. They battled injuries and illness and frequent momentum-stopping delays due to injuries, referee controversies and bad weather to gain the finals and force the championship into overtime. A different bounce or a bit of break and the Sparks readily could have gone home as the champions. LANCO's defense was sharply tested.

To view tournament results, click on the headline for this article.      

Sunday, February 10
Sparks are finalists in Spring Kick 4 v 4 tournament
The Annandale Sparks won their way to the Finals of the Spring Kick 4v4 Indoor Tournament Sunday. Playing in the Varsity Division, the Sparks Red team battled in the finals to a 4-3 loss to the Mid-County Sharks, a U-17 team of upperclassmen. Down 4-1 the Red Sparks fought back to the one-goal margin and were working for more before time unexpectedly ran out.

The Sparks Red team went into the Finals undefeated. Along the way the Sparks Red beat the U-16 PWSI Rockets team 7-3, the U-17 Mid-County Sharks II team 9-1, the U-19 FCSC Eagles team 10-0 and the U-15 PWSI Fireballs Red team 6-4.

A second Sparks team also performed well throughout the day. The White team lost in the preliminary rounds to the eventual champions, but notched a nice 6-3 win over the PV Girls team of juniors and seniors. The White Team also played to a 4-4 tie against the PWSI Fireballs White team.

Congratulations to Coaches Germain and Wellner and the 10 Sparks who participated in the day-long tournament at Osbourn High School in Manassas: Ashley, Caitlin, Caroline, Hannah, Kaitlin, Kimberly, Lizzy, Maggie, Mary and Melissa. Also thanks to guest player Farrah who helped the White team with some nice goals and assists.

Go Sparks.         

Annandale Sparks
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